Analysis: Will the struggle for power in Labour recommence after #GE17?


Regardless of the outcome of the vote, ideological scores in the party haven’t been settled

THE MOST dramatic story from the General Election campaign, launched in April and closing on 8 June, has been the surge of support for Labour under leftwing leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Ipsos Mori has recorded him ascending 24 points in the polls between late April and the start of June.

Corbyn is gaining a reputation as a political survivor, having won two leadership elections in two years and having apparently rescued Labour from one of its worst ever General Election defeats.

However, as has been reported of through nameless sources in the Evening Standard and the Guardian, Corbyn’s opponents on the right of the party will likely still attempt to oust him after the election.

The Labour party is one of the pillars of the UK democratic system, and under Corbyn it is the largest and most electorally successful traditional social democratic party in Europe. What happens to it after the General Election is therefore of widespread significance.

CommonSpace looks at the struggle for the future of Labour after #GE17.

Who are Corbyn’s opponents?

Between 1979 and 1997 the Labour party underwent 18 years of defeat, during which time a key group of ideological thinkers, including former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown but also court philosophers like Anthony Giddons adapted themselves to the idea that the world had changed for good with the advent of the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s style of market orientated policy, and similar movements around the world.

In recent years, however, the political centre – often administered by figures in the new ‘moderate’ left – has frayed under pressure from an economic slowdown and pressures on living standards across large parts of the Western world. Political projects offering greater ideological distinction from the centre on both the left and right have risen up to challenge the political establishment.

Watch: Tony Blair and former New Labour media relations chief Alistair Campbell discuss their post-election plans

Chaotic political events including Brexit, the election of President Donald Trump in the US and the election of Syriza in Greece and the subsequent referendum victory to reject austerity are all moments in this general development, as was the scale of the Yes movement for Scottish independence in 2014.

Another of these ruptures was the election of Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour party in 2015, an event that shocked pundits and politicians.

The response from horrified party ideologues like Blair, has been to call for a “fightback against the populisms left and right” and establish a new “modern progressive” politics.

What do Corbyn’s opponents want?

Any notion that what Corbyn’s opponents simply want electoral success has been seriously challenged by this election. Even as Corbyn appeared to peak in the polls, coming within just a few points of May – a feat thought unachievable at the start of the campaign – attitudes towards the leader among opponents didn’t soften.

The ideological disagreements between factions inside Labour remain as sharp as ever. Party moderates believe that the current international order may have problems, but represents a healthy basis for advancing society. More radical figures like Corbyn believe that society is deteriorating under the pressures of society’s hierarchies and inequalities.

But there is real tactical confusion within the Labour right. Some, including Blair loyalist and former minister and Peter Mandelson, have publicly toyed with the idea of a start-up political party like the successful En-Marche centrist project in France – though whether this is more a threat that anything else is open to interpretation.

Others, a majority faction of mainly younger opponents and those on the left of the party centre, want to challenge Corbyn again for the leadership of the party. There are thought to be debates about when a leadership election might be held , but Corbyn is not expected to stand down immediately after the election.

For another group, particularly around Blair, a dual strategy, to be unveiled after the General Election, is envisioned. This might involve the setting up of an “apparatus” for advancing a new centrist politics outside the party, whilst maintaining a strategy for reclaiming Labour from within.

Is Corbyn in a strong position?

If Corbyn were to win the election he would of course be in an unassailable positon as prime minister. He would still face many challenges, and its likely party opponents would continue to dog him (as they did less contentious leaders like Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband), but this would represent an historic forward step for the left of the party.

If, as the polls suggest, Corbyn does not defeat May, he will be in a more contested position, though he is still likely to be in a stronger one than before the election.

If Corbyn secures anything like the 36 per cent given to him by an aggregate of polls on the day of the vote, he will have significantly out-done the previous moderate challenger Ed Miliband, who won just 30.4 per cent of the vote.

But regardless, Corbyn’s strong campaign has only swelled admiration for him among party members and supporters.

One poll by Ipsos Mori found that approval ratings for Corbyn among Labour supporters had leapt to 71 per cent, compared to just 19 per cent who were dissatisfied.

These combined factors – growing satisfaction among the party faithful, a (likely) expanded share of the vote and momentum of the back of the campaign should afford Corbyn a degree of protection from further plots, at least immediately after the election.

Picture: CommonSpace

Video: Youtube/GQ 

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